Throughout the ages and across the globe, music has spread joy, liberated people from the silence of exclusion and lifted them up in times of struggle. From empowering individual expression to emboldening collective movements, music is at the heart of the human experience.
On April 3, 2017, Speaker George J. Furey, Q.C., Senator Marilou McPhedran, Senator Lillian Eva Dyck, Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas and Senator Murray Sinclair hosted an evening to celebrate the power of music in the Senate Chamber.
“Music is a universal language,” Speaker Furey said.
“Through varied sound, rhythm and textures, music expresses what words cannot. It provides strength in darkness, reigniting hope in our hearts and minds.”
The event was held in partnership with Make Music Matter, an organization founded by Winnipeg’s Darcy Ataman, which helps survivors of conflict and trauma in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo tell their stories and heal through song.
“Singing is free — you can’t take that away from anyone. And that’s what’s so effective about our program: we give equal power to everybody. For instance, a rape survivor living in a conflict-zone, through music, has equal power to everyone else,” Ataman said.
“We proved that today when our guest musicians performed ‘My Body is Not a Weapon’, a song written by a rape survivor, here, in Canada’s Upper Chamber. That alone says a lot.”
Canadian music legend Buffy Sainte-Marie was also a guest speaker and Billy Talent lead-guitarist Ian D’Sa helped perform “My Body is Not a Weapon.”
While the power of music is indeed universal, Sainte-Marie brought things closer to home when she spoke about the overlap between music, education and reconciliation. She also described the Cradleboard Teaching Project, an initiative she founded in 1996 which puts Indigenous culture at the core of an alternative education curriculum.
“As a songwriter with a history of effective three-minute songs, I wrote the curriculum lessons as brief hands-on interactive multimedia,” Saint-Marie said.
The making of music demands listening, learning and creating — like life itself. Whether it helps one person to heal and grow or an entire community to rediscover its voice, the power of song will be echoing in this chamber for some time.
Senator McPhedran added the event was the Senate’s way of celebrating homegrown talent and the healing, inspiring power of music.
“With the JUNO Awards being in Ottawa, we paid tribute in the Red Chamber to the integrity and brilliance of the 50-plus-year career of Buffy Sainte-Marie,” she said.
“Also, it was uplifting to hear a group of Congolese-Canadian youth perform with JUNO star Ian D'Sa of Billy Talent — sharing the powerful words of a Congolese rape survivor developed in co-operation with Make Music Matter."